By John Mountford, British Council TVET Consultant, UK
The disruptive impact of youth unemployment represents a significant threat to global economic prosperity and social cohesion. It is well documented that social disenfranchisement resulting from unemployment (and underemployment) can potentially lead to social unrest associated with crime, often perilous migration and extremism. Equally, national, local and individuals’ economic prosperity is closely linked to functioning labour markets that support employers in accessing appropriately skilled school leavers and graduates (TVET and HE), and individuals in finding employment that reflects their skills and ambitions.
These global challenges are certainly relevant to the context of Sudan, as it looks to manage its demographic transformation towards a youth and urban based society. Sudan has many of the characteristics of a developing nation with a young median age (19), large parts of the population living below the poverty line, with regional and gender-based disparities in employment opportunities. including noticeably for women and the under 25s. These challenges have been further exacerbated by severe economic recession, governmental fragility and growing social unrest.
Through promoting the successful transition from training to employment TVET could play an important role in addressing these socio-economic challenges. This would include supporting the supply of skilled workers in a range of priority sectors, including; agriculture value chain, food processing, construction, mining, and increasingly technical roles associated with ICT, telecommunication, and manufacturing and engineering. Sudan’s economic policies have also identified a need to diversify from traditional land-based sector dependencies through the expansion of new sectors, adding value to primary commodities and promoting export opportunities. High quality, relevant and inclusive TVET has a key role in the realisation, or unlocking, of these economic ambitions.
However, as is the case in many countries, despite this opportunity to make a significant contribution to Sudan’s economic development, TVET has played a marginal role compared to general and academic education sectors, with UNESCO identifying that only 2.3% of the workforce holds vocational training or technical education certificates. This marginalisation can, in part, be assigned to deep rooted issues associated with public and industry perceptions of TVET, with the sector widely regarded as a second choice, or even a last resort. There are also significant issues with the quality and skills of TVET graduates being inadequate in meeting labour market demands. There is a need for an enabling and more collaborative environment for both private and TVET sector stakeholders to effectively engage on the design and delivery of relevant training. There are also significant quality issues, which, in part, can be assigned to poor training conditions in TVET institutions, that are not conducive to teacher and learner performance. The consequence of delivering TVET in this context is defined through insufficient resource allocation, obsolete equipment, lack of managerial capacity, out-dated curriculum, and the gendered allocation of professional roles.
However, the positive news for Sudan, as in many countries, is that there is a growing appreciation that the acquisition of skills is key driver for economic prosperity. This has resulted in a growing reimagining of the role of TVET being driven by government, private sector and development programme initiatives. However, it is important to note that this transformation will not be achieved through an acknowledgment on the importance of TVET alone, it will require investment and strategic interventions in key areas. A scoping study currently being conducted by the British Council Sudan has identified core sector themes to provide a framework for future sector capacity building funding and interventions.
This includes interventions concentrating on enhancing the relevance of training, through building both employers’ and providers’ capacity to engage in training design and delivery. The development of dual professionalism to ensure that TVET instructors have an up to date understanding of industry skills needs and that employers have the pedagogic capacity to deliver impactful work-based learning. There is also an identified need to develop stronger LMA capacity and confidence, on both demand and supply sides, to support a more effective utilisation of LMI describing national and local, current and future, skills needs in the design and assessment of TVET programmes. It is also recommended that interventions promote TVET attractiveness to employers and learners, with a focus on more inclusive TVET enrolment outcomes for marginalised groups and communities.
Positive TVET sector outcomes will also be driven through the embedding of strong leadership throughout the system, developed through the introduction of; leadership development programmes, training provider accreditation, and effective quality assurance models. More widely, it is importance that sector governance embeds TVET into wider labour market development initiatives promoting the strategic interlinking of demand and supply side development initiatives. In addition, there remains an important need for investment and development in a range of areas, including; training resources and tools, careers advice and guidance, lifelong learning, including in the application of RPL, and the effective integration of ICT into TVET.
As in all countries, the capacity building of Sudan’s TVET sector will support the realisation of its socio-economic development. The successful implementation of TVET will empower youth and lifelong learners with the skills they need to transition to employment, enhancing their own, their employers’ and their communities’ sustainable prosperity.